Tag Archives: safety net

Speenhamland: An early experiment in basic income

Sources: Karl Polanyi, 1944. The Great Transformation.; Fred Block and Margaret Somers, 2003. In the Shadow of Speenhamland: Social Policy and the Old Poor Law.

Late 18th century Southern England was having a hard time of it. Rural labourers were losing access to land to support themselves because of enclosures. Cottage craft industries were losing ground to manufactured goods from the North. And grain prices spiked due to the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1795, authorities introduced the Speenhamland Law to help workers cope with all this, implemented at the parish level. Some parishes provided a basic income, with a 100% clawback. Others provided workfare, unemployment insurance, and other variations. Support was geared to the price of wheat, going up and down with wheat or bread prices. It went on until 1834, then was replaced with the workhouse – an institution that separated families and gave them make-work projects for their survival.
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Report: Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work

Two researchers from the Mowat Centre in Toronto have published a report on the future of Canada’s safety net, given current and likely future changes to the job market.

Sunil Johan and Jordann Thirgood: Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work.
webpage, pdf of actual report
(This is the report I linked to in the previous blog post.)

This report explores the implications of new technologies on Canada’s economy and labour market and the adequacy of current social programs and policies supporting workers. It proposes key considerations policymakers need to keep in mind as the nature of jobs evolves to ensure that they are designing policies that lead, and don’t lag, rapid changes to the nature of work.

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